Domenicali: New Ferrari not quickest in field

Stefano Domenicali has admitted Ferrari will probably not field the fastest car at the 2013 season opener next month.

Indeed, based on the results of the opening two tests of the pre-season, most rivals and pundits think world champion Red Bull is still in the lead. Veteran correspondent Roger Benoit, of the Swiss newspaper Blick, ranks Lotus second in his early 2013 pecking order, followed by McLaren and then last year’s runner-up Ferrari.

“The target is to be close together with the leading cars,” Maranello based Ferrari’s team boss Domenicali told Reuters. “I would be very surprised if it (the F138) was the quickest at the first race. But if we are all close together in a couple of tenths, then the season is really long and everything is possible.”

Last year, Ferrari and Fernando Alonso fought back into contention after a dire start, and both the Spanish driver and Felipe Massa have said the F138 is on “a different planet” compared to what they had early in 2012.

Still, their 2013 machine will probably not be dominant, Domenicali warns.

“In Australia it is not the end of the championship, it’s just the start. We need to be careful and stay cool,” he added.


Domenicali: 2013 F1 season will be as close as 2012

Ferrari is expecting another closely-fought world championship contest in 2013.

Last year, no fewer than six separate teams won grands prix – a rarity in formula one – and for 2013 the regulations are not changing significantly.

“The stability of the regulations is always a condition that favours greater similarity in the performance of the competitors,” team boss Stefano Domenicali is quoted by Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper. “I don’t think anyone will come up with anything critical, as Brawn GP did in 2009 or Red Bull in 2011, to create a great imbalance,” the Ferrari chief added.

Steve Nielsen, Toro Rosso’s new sporting director, agrees.

“The operation of the exhaust to generate downforce will remain the key this year,” he is quoted as saying. “But the teams basically depleted the possibilities for discovering something really new in that area last year,” he added.

It is for that reason that some expect the drivers to have a greater influence than usual on the results in 2013. Lewis (Hamilton) arriving definitely strengthens Mercedes,” said Sir Jackie Stewart. “He is able to get more out of a car that is not the best than anyone else.

“Sorry — Fernando as well,” the triple world champion added.

Felipe Massa, however, thinks that even within the confines of the similar 2012-2013 rules, Ferrari still has room to improve.

“We finished the last season well,” said the Brazilian. “Not as well as McLaren and Red Bull, but we may have been the fastest in development. Our margin for progress is still great,” he insisted.


Domenicali: First races of 2013 key to title

The opening races of this season’s world championship will be crucial, according to Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.

In 2012, runner-up Ferrari had a dire start to its campaign, while eventual champion Red Bull also took some time to establish its full potential. But with the sweeping rule changes of 2014 looming large, Domenicali said the dynamics of this season’s battle will be different.

“Next season (2013) will be decided in the first races,” he is quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “The teams will do their work for 2013 and then move on to the preparations for 2014,” the Italian added. “I think this switch will happen in July, so you will need to start the year well.”

Referring to the 2014 rules, featuring the move from V8 to turbo V6 engines, Williams’ technical director Mike Coughlan confirmed: “It’s a huge change.

“There are very few teams who will be able to do a fully-focused run on the 2013 championship and the year after,” he is quoted by the Sun newspaper.

However, Domenicali said he is confident Ferrari will succeed where it failed in 2012.

“What happened to us last year in the Jerez test will not be repeated this year,” he insisted.

“Now we are sure that the wind tunnel will not give us surprises,” added Domenicali, referring to the closure of the Maranello facility for a revamp, and Ferrari’s looming exclusive work in Toyota’s state-of-the-art Cologne tunnel.


Domenicali: Ferrari only need two-tenths boost

Two tenths of a second could ensure Fernando Alonso is able to win the 2012 world championship.

“We need to find at least two tenths,” Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

Although Alonso’s fastest race lap in Korea last time out was four tenths off the fastest Red Bull, Felipe Massa was just two tenths adrift the ultimate pace in the sister F2012. Reports have indicated the Brazilian was at the wheel of a new exhaust layout that will be added to Alonso’s red car in India next weekend. Domenicali said the step needed by Ferrari to compete with Red Bull and track down Sebastian Vettel’s 6-point lead is small.

“We do not need to reinvent our car,” said the Italian.

Red Bull’s advantage has looked significant at the last few races, but designer Adrian Newey is cautious.

“It is not certain that we will maintain this advantage over Ferrari,” he is quoted by Italy’s La Stampa. “No team this year has dominated for more than two consecutive grands prix,” added the Briton. “In Korea we were very concerned about the excessive consumption of tyres.”

Alonso is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace: “Five races ago McLaren was the favourite to win everything else this year but in Korea they were almost out of the points. We are six points behind but there are still 100 in the game. We have a good chance of winning the championship.”


Domenicali: McLaren has lost a tremendous asset

Stefano Domenicali has dismissed claims Lewis Hamilton has made a bad choice by electing to move from McLaren to Mercedes.

Told by an interviewer it might not be the wisest choice for the 2008 world champion, Ferrari team boss Domenicali said: “Mercedes has enormous potential.

“It has invested heavily in the past three years and has not achieved the results it expected. But it is doing everything in its power to win,” he told El Pais newspaper. “Hamilton has seen this potential that has not yet materialised. What is clear is that McLaren has lost a tremendous asset.

“After Fernando (Alonso), Vettel and him are the fastest ones.”

Meanwhile, Domenicali defended Alonso’s number 2 teammate Felipe Massa, amid intense speculation in Korea that the 31-year-old will be retained in 2013.

“There is no evidence,” he said, “that he is still suffering either medically or mentally from the accident he had three years ago. I think what happened is that he suffered more than his teammate with the cars we have designed lately.

“Another element to consider is that it is not easy for anyone to have someone like Fernando as your teammate. You have to be very mature to accept how good he is.

“That’s something we experienced with Schumacher as well — when we had someone next to him who is able to recognise that Schumacher was faster, everything was perfect.

“When he (the number 2) tries to prove that he is better and he does not, problems appeared,” added Domenicali.


Domenicali: No hurry over to make decision over Massa

Amid reports Felipe Massa is close to securing a new contract for 2013, team boss Stefano Domenicali insists Ferrari is in “no hurry” to make a decision.

“At this point I have nothing to add,” he is quoted by Spain’s AS sports newspaper.

The publications Blick (Switzerland) and Auto Motor und Sport (Germany) have reported that a new deal for Massa is imminent, while the 31-year-old told Brazil’s ‘Lance!’ that he thinks he is “very close” to securing a 2013 contract.

“We have no hurry to make our decisions,” Domenicali insisted. “If Felipe keeps up the good performances he has done in the last few races it will be good for the team to fight for the constructors’ title, and good for him as well. And at the proper time, we will take the decision.

“I know there’s a lot of pressure from the outside, but we are going to talk with Felipe at the right time, taking into account all the parameters,” added Domenicali.

Meanwhile, when asked if he could only choose between world champions Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel as a future Ferrari driver, Domenicali answered simply: “Vettel.”


Domenicali: Massa needs many more good results

Felipe Massa must continue his race-by-race quest for a new Ferrari contract, boss Stefano Domenicali has suggested.

After F1’s five-week summer break, he went into the Belgian grand prix last weekend acknowledging that the remaining races of 2012 are crucial “regarding my future”.

At Spa, the Brazilian then qualified a poor 14th compared to his teammate Fernando Alonso’s sixth, but in the race charged solidly to fifth — his second-best result of the entire season.

“I don’t know if this race changes anything regarding my future, but I am very satisfied,” said the 31-year-old last Sunday.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali said the result was “just what was required” from the struggling Brazilian.

“We needed that sort of race from him as a team and he himself needed it as a driver,” said the Italian.

But Domenicali added that Massa needs to keep impressing.

“We need to see that again, not only in Monza this weekend, but also for the rest of the season,” he said.


Domenicali: We won’t be announcing 2013 lineup at Monza

Stefano Domenicali has said that Ferrari will not be announcing it’s 2013 lineup at the Italian Grand Prix.

There is currently much speculation over the future of Felipe Massa with many believing that he will be not be driving for the scarlet-clad team in 2013. Some had hoped that the rumours would end with an announcement from Ferrari over their 2013 lineup at their home race in Italy however Domenicali has said that the team will not be making any announcements.

Talking to Marca he said, “We will not discuss anything concerning the drivers (lineup) at Monza.”

Undeterred, the interviewer asked Domenicali if Ferrari might nonetheless spring a surprise, perhaps by announcing that Finn Heikki Kovalainen will be Fernando Alonso’s new teammate.

“If you listen around the paddock I think even (Real Madrid captain Iker) Casillas is mentioned, but I think he is a little big for our car,” he joked.

Before hitting the track on Friday, Massa admitted at Spa that his second half of the season needed to be “completely different” to the first.

“I have no news to give you regarding my future,” he told reporters, “but it is the remaining races of this year that are important. Definitely it’s important that something is decided before the very end of the season.”

In qualifying, he was 14th compared to Alonso’s sixth.


Engine switch ‘wise’ despite loss of V8 scream – Domenicali

Stefano Domenicali has admitted the F1 fraternity may initially struggle to adapt to the “new noise” of 2014.

The sport is preparing to move from deafening V8 power to the comparatively-sedate turbo tones of V6 engines. One aspect of the radical new rules is the requirement for the cars to be totally silent, relying only on electric power, whilst in the pitlane.

“We are totally against that, and it’s something that is yet to be fully defined. We have to discuss that further with the FIA,” Ferrari team boss Domenicali told the Spanish daily Marca.

As for the new turbo V6 formula, Domenicali said Ferrari is happy. Amid the current V8 engine development ‘freeze’, the Italian team has been complaining for years about the dominance of aerodynamics.

“To me, what I do not like about the F1 of today is that we only talk about aerodynamics,” Domenicali said. “If you ask the fans about the engine – how many cylinders, how much horse power – they have no idea.

“I think it is right for the future to find a balance.”

Domenicali said V6 is a “different technical challenge” that Ferrari finds “exciting”.

“At first I think everyone will say it (the engine tone) sounds a little strange, but probably for the future it is a wise decision, especially talking about the turbo, the recoverable energy, and the less noise.

“F1, being the pinnacle of motor sport, has to be the first to go this way. Some say that in this time of crisis it would be better to wait, and that may be right, but now we have taken a road we cannot return from.”

As ever in F1, however, there are many uncertainties. Red Bull’s Adrian Newey said recently he fears one engine manufacturer could get the upper hand with the new V6 formula, and dominate for years and years.

That risk appears even higher given the fact that the 2014 manufacturers – Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault – are designing their V6s right now amid F1’s strict testing ban.

“We’re not agreeing to introduce any new test sessions that would use mule (V6-equipped) cars,” said McLaren’s Paddy Lowe at Spa.

Ferrari’s engine boss Mattia Binotto is worried.

“It’s clear that we are very keen to run the new power unit earlier because what you can find on a car is never equal to what you can find on the dyno,” he said at Spa.

“We are all afraid that by the start of the (2014) season you find out that you have a big issue with the engine and you have no time to sort it out.”


Domenicali: No testing means ‘no bright stars’

Stefano Domenicali has blamed the lack of F1 private testing for the sport’s failure to produce bright new star drivers in recent times.

With the sport moving to reduce its exorbitant costs, expensive track testing has become almost a thing of the past. Now, the few pre-season tests are used exclusively for car development and the race drivers, and even the new mid-season test – held at Mugello this year – has been scrapped for 2013.

That leaves just the ‘young drivers’ test, but that concept has been a shambles in 2012, with the twelve teams splitting their running throughout the season between Silverstone, Magny Cours and Abu Dhabi. So with Ferrari now essentially unable to use its vast resources or private venues including Fiorano for extensive track testing, team boss Domenicali insists a bad side-effect is that uncovering bright new talent is now harder.

“I don’t want to speak badly about the drivers (of today),” he is quoted by Russia’s, “but in my view it is clear that in recent years we have not seen many bright new stars. If we do not increase the level of testing, the problem will just get worse and worse. Testing is not just for technical innovations, but also to give young drivers the chance to learn something and make themselves known.

“Without testing, Formula One puts itself at risk. In the current situation, we are not able to find the new stars because you would be having to put young drivers immediately in the races, without the necessary experience behind them, and that is not good for anyone,” added Domenicali.